SoilIt is planning time again. The Planning Commission of India is in the process of developing the 12th Five Year Plan, which will provide direction to the country for the next five years starting in 2012. The news is that this time, Greenpeace will be right there in the middle of all the planning action.

Greenpeace is a part of the working group which will plan the management of natural resources and rain-fed agriculture. We will be voicing the views of thousands of concerned farmers, several civil society organisations, think tanks and experts from across the country who have been a part of the persistent efforts to highlight the danger of neglecting our dying soils.

A few years back when we first spoke about soils and subsidies, we were brushed aside as trivial people talking about unimportant matters. I remember a key official from the one of the major agrarian states in the country telling me that there are thousands of other pressing issues in agriculture, in the midst of which no one cares for soils. We however, continued to believe that if we have to save our agriculture, we have to save our soils first.  

The indiscriminate use of chemical fertilisers continued with ever-increasing subsidy support from government. On the other hand little was done to promote ecological agriculture which can rejuvenate soils and sustain agricultural production. Two years back, we did a peaceful demonstration in front of the Parliament to draw the attention of the policy makers to this issue. We were arrested and removed, but we didn’t stop there.  

Living soilsWe took the soils agenda all across the country through our “Living Soils” campaign, and thousands joined hands with us to make it a movement. The results are telling. Now soil health is a top priority for the policy makers, but still there is a need for a change in approach.

It’s time the policy makers start thinking beyond the conventional indicators and approach natural resources with a different outlook. While the Green Revolution era adopted a complete exploitative approach, the modern era disguises weapons of exploitation, wrapping them in shining papers of conservation to appear eco-friendly.

The conservation-agriculture package as promoted by the industry comes across as a  fantastic soil enriching practice with zero-tillage and recycling of crop residues. But in reality these very industries promote practices like synthetic herbicides and herbicide tolerant GM crops, which destroy the ecological equilibrium, under the same package.

So, we have to watch out for these profit-making initiatives in the garb of ‘eco-business’. What we need is real conservation principles rooted in traditional knowledge and supported by community participation. We need to have strict policies in place to check the abuse of natural resources like the indiscriminate use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

We also need to have an institutional reform, a shift in powers, a re- focus in research priorities to adopt ecological principles and a re-prioritization of resource allocation. Let us dedicate the next five years to bringing in an ever-green revolution rooted in ecological principles.


Images: © Greenpeace / Vivek M